Baseball season is well underway as fans fill themselves up on hot dogs and beers, don their rally caps for some late-inning luck, and cheer for their favorite players. Meanwhile, a class action against Major League Baseball by former minor league players has been trotting through federal court. In Senne v. MLB, No. 3:14-cv-00608-JCS (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2014), ECF No. 1, the plaintiffs cry foul in alleging that “paying their dues” on the way to the big leagues isn’t paying the bills. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that MLB and all 30 of its teams have violated the FLSA by not paying the minor leaguers overtime and minimum wage.
The MLB has found itself in several pickles over the past few years. It has just emerged from the steroid era, and it now faces a consumer class action alleging the MLB monopolized televised baseball games by using its blackout system — which was recently certified.
In the minor leaguers’ action, the plaintiffs claim that most minor leaguers earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for the season, despite sometimes working more than 70 hours per week training and travelling. (Labor advocates for the minor leaguers argue that MLB and franchise owners are able to depress minor league salaries this way because the minor leaguers have no union representation.)
The minor leaguers claim that MLB has been engaging in a blanket practice of failing to pay players in order to reap higher profits. The plaintiffs even took a swing at the MLB as an institution, accusing the organization in their complaint of having a “long, infamous history of labor exploitation dating to its inception.”
The former minor leaguers are looking to draft other aggrieved players to form a collective action, and the case is currently in the discovery phase with trial scheduled for February 2017. In filing its answer, MLB is clinging to its traditional antitrust exemption, and Minor League Baseball’s top brass are supporting the organization.
Whether the former minor leaguers will hit a home run or strike out is still to be determined. We will continue to monitor the case for new developments, though.